From Inspiration to Implementation – Tina Seelig

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Here are my notes from a great talk by Tina Seelig (hostess of Stanford e-corner) on a model for describing creativity and inspiration.

Need vocabulary to describe words like: creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship. Don’t have good definition for these words. Sharp contrast to other disciplines like maths, physics.

So we need a model and way to describe. Here is the model/definitions/framework for describing these concepts.

Imagination – The ability to envision what doesn’t exist

Creativity – Applying your imagination to solve your problem.

Innovation – Applying your creativity to come up with a unique solution.

Entrepreneurship – Applying your innovation to bring those ideas to life.

Now can break down and see what have to happen at each level.

engaging and envisioning
you need to start with engagement
if you don’t engage, you won’t see opportunities
Most people don’t pay attention
Go through life with blinders on
Miss opportunities – because they don’t engage
Hence they can’t envision
Many people don’t know they have a passion until they engage

requires motivation and experimentation
most people in world are puzzle builders
they know exactly what their life should look like, and they assembles pieces to complete the puzzle
they are the ones who get stopped by barriers
creativity people are quilt makers – they weave stuff together
many of these people stcratch itches they fac
13:39 Monster maker – cheap prototyping experimentation

focus and reframing
this is for deep insights and breakthroughs
reframing is when you start looking at the problem from all different angles
? + ? = 10 infinite answers
they way you ask the question is profound
the question you ask is the frame into which the answers will fall
Example – Plan big birthday for Morgan
if we change one word to
Plan birthday celebration…
The set of solutions completely expands
If you don’t ask the right question, you won’t get the right answers
18:38 How to reframe problem and come up with innovative solutions

persistence and inspiring others
persistence = grit
people who will walk through walls to get things done
also critical for you to inspire others to join you
22:45 Global innovation tournament example

Organizations need people playing all these roles.

Create more value than you capture – Tim O’Reilly


The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think – Edwin Schlossberg

Here are some notes from Stanfords Entrepreneurial podcast series with guest speaker Tim O’Reilly.


  • We should create more value than we capture.
  • Work on stuff that matters.
  • Idealism is the best form of marketing.
  • Do something that matters to you more than money.

Only invest in things that close the loop. i.e. Uber (cab company) makes it so when you hail a cab you get a text when he arrives, and you can see on the map how close the cab is to your location.

Create more value than you capture. When Jack Dorsey started square, he had a social mission in mind. He wanted to enable a class of small merchant, to enable anybody, to exchange money in a new way.

He was think hard about how do you make the economy work better? That’s a big interesting question! And one that we miss a lot. A lot of startups think how do I get funded, how do I get to an exit, and maybe you think I have an interesting problem. But Jack wanted to solve that problem whether it turned into a big business or not. He just thought it was really interesting to solve. That sense of trying to enable an economy is cool.

Les Miserables. A guy gets thrown in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. He becomes ruined by this. Becomes a criminal. He can’t get a job. He ends up stealing some candle sticks from a church, and the priest there instead of turning him into the police says, ‘I gave him those candle sticks.’ and so Jean VelleJean feels has an obligation to do good and becomes a business man, creates this wonderful business, and this is the line Tim loves so much:

‘He makes the entire region prosperous. There is no pocket so obscure that it didn’t have a little money in it. No dwelling so low that there wasn’t a little joy within it.

Father Madellan made his fortune but a singular thing and a simple man of business did not seem as though that was his chief care. He seemed to thinking much of others, and little of himself.

How many people can we say that about in business? There is something really wrong with that.

It’s this idea that came out of the 80s that the only obligation of a business is to make money for it’s shareholders. We’ve seen where that has taken us. A situation where the Wall Street banks think it’s OK perfectly legitimate to screw over the entire economy so long as it fattens their pockets. It is not OK. It’s the big lie of modern business. You have to create something of value.

We should create more value than we capture.

Les Miserable guy wanted to create something that helped the local economy. Wanted other people to success. Etzy, AirBrb, Kickstarter. They are important lessons. If you creating an ecosystem and value for other people your business will succeed.

If you can make other people successful. You can make the world a better place. That is a good thing.

Work on stuff that matters.

These are big ideas that tell a story. Idealism is not only good for you business, and not only good for your world, it is the best for marketing.

Idealism is the best form of marketing.

Tim sold a lot of books in the open source movement because of the story they told. They made communities and people feel good about themselves because of the work they were doing. They told a story of helping others and then helped their own business.

Web 2.0 brand was started to get people excited again about the computing business. A lot of people were out of work and this got tech going again.

Tim gave a talk in 2008 called ‘Why I love hackers’ at Emerging Technology Conference. Here he read a poem of Jacob wrestling with an Angel (a biblical story) and the poem is about how the wrestlers of the old testament would wrestle with the angles knowing they couldn’t when but feeling better for having done it. They got stronger.

‘What we fight with is so small.
When we win it makes us small.
What we want is to be defeated decisively by excessively greater beings.

People love to be challenged with idealism. They love to be challenged to work on stuff that matters.

Do something that matters to you more than money.

It’s a great way to succeed and even if you don’t succeed, the world will be in a better place. And that’s what you should think on as an entrepreneur. And you should work on things that are hard.

What Great Leaders Do – Bob Sutton

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Just listened to another great podcast from the Stanford Ventures Program. This was was by Bob Sutton – a management professor who has studied great leaders and reports back on what he finds.

To get the full power of this podcast you need to listen to it. But here are were some of the highlights and quotes for me.

First mover advantage is a myth. No evidence that if you get there first you have an advantage over others. Facebook was fourth. Amazon was eighth. Google was like 20th.

No evidence performance evaluations are good or bad. ½ are good. ½ are bad.

Main point of his book Good Boss Bad Boss. When you are a boss it’s not all about you. That is a ½ truth. When people are placed in a position of authority over others a number of things happen:

1. The people who you lead watch your every move very closely.
2. You will get more blame and more credit than you deserve for organizational performance.

On average leaders are good for 15% of performance for a group. Shockingly low. But on average get 15% of the blame or credit.

So the point is the best bosses realize it is all about them and they work very hard to be intune with how others are responding to them. Not for egotistically reasons but because that is one of their core job responsibilities.

This happens to baboons too. The typical member of a baboon troop will look at at their alpha male once every 30 seconds. Something biological or genetic going on here.

Power poisoning

Independent of personality when you put human beings in power positions over other human beings three things happen pretty reliably:

1. They focus more on their own needs and concerns.
2. They focus less on the needs and concerns of others.
3. They act like the rules don’t apply to them.

Also evidence that when performance is really great, the chances of these three things occurs are greatest (Mark Hurd of HP scandal is used as an example). So beware your successes – less you turn into an idiot.

UC Berkley Cookie Study (13min)

Three students are put into a room. One is identified as the boss. The experimenter brings in a plate of five cookies. We all know the social norm against taking the last cookie. So the cookie in play was the fourth cookie. Bosses tended to take the fourth cookie.

They tended to eat with their mouths open. They tended to leave more crumbs.

The lesson is that when you are boss and everyone is kissing your butt, you can see how hard it is to be in tune with the people and not fall pray to the power poisoning.

Hallmarks of intune bosses

1. Be perfectly assertive.

Best bosses have that ability to turn up the volume to be pushy to get in peoples faces when they need it, maybe give some negative feedback, and back off when it’s the right time to do that.

“I believe managing is like holding a dove in your hand. If you hold it too tightly you kill it. If you hold it too loosely you lose it.” – Tommy Lasorta

When you lead people doing creative work, first do no harm is important. When you micromanage that stifles creativity. So leave people alone. Manage by getting out of the way.

Management by walking out of the room. CEO of IDEO does this. He will leave a room if he is not needed. Because he recognizes he is an authority figure and if he stays too long that can mess things up.

“After you plant a seed in the ground, you don’t dig it up every week to see how it is doing.” Manager, 3M

2. Attitude of wisdom.

Good bosses have the courage and the confidence to act on what they know right now, along with the humility to update when new information comes along.

“I think it is very important for you to do two things: act on you temporary convictions as if it were a real conviction; and when you realize your are wrong correct course very quickly” – Andy Grove, Intel

Research on flattery shows that if you want somebody to like you, you should flatter them. Even with false flattery. We still like people more.

Put that in a hiearchical position this is how people get a head.

The mum effect (23 min)

When people deliver us bad news, we like them less. If you want to get a head your flatter your boss, and you don’t deliver bad news.

But when you start adding up the hierical effects, you find that as the boss it’s really hard to get bad news.

Richard Feyman was a nobel award winning Physist. When he was asked to investigate the Space Shuttle (Rogers commission) he went rogue. The head of the commission told him to walk the line and not ask questions.

So instead he bought his own plan tickets and flew around interviewing engineers. He figured out the seals were the issue. One of the questions he’d ask during the process was: “What is the probablilty the main engine of the shuttle would fail?”

Engineers said 1:200.
Bosses said 1:100,000.

3. Fighting in a constructive way.

Most effective teams fight in an environment of mutual respect.

“Fight as if you are right. Listen as if you are wrong.” – Carl Wright.

“When two people in business agree, one of them is unnecessary.”

Then at some point stop fighting, accept defeat gracefully, implement the idea you may disagree with.

“If you disagree with an idea, you should work especially hard to implement it well because they way when it fails you’ll know it was a bad idea. Not bad execution.” – Andy Grove.

4. Use a small win strategy.

Jim Collin’s Good to Great books has then idea of Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGS). But BHAGS alone aren’t good enough. You need small victories and wins to get their.

So the best bosses aren’t those who are just idea guys who are good on vision. They can also help execute and get things done.

One executive was told that if they didn’t increase sales next quarter by 20% there were going to be big layoffs.

So what she did was assemble her team together and had them use stickies to write all the steps they needed to take to have a successful sales campaign.

Then she drew a line and broke them into two piles: easy & hard.

Then she said let’s start talking about how we are going to accomplish all the easy ones in the next two weeks. Which they did.

Then they had the confidence to tackle the more difficult things.

5. Superstars and Rotten Apples. (31 min)

Three minutes on HR. What’s the best incentive system for an organization. Who are the superstars?

“Somebody who gets ahead, by helping others succeed.” – Defn SuperStar.

Got to get rid of Rotten Apples. If you are in a personal relationship with someone and you have less than a 5:1 ratio of good to bad interactions that relationship is in trouble.

Having a bad encounter packs x5 the emotional impact as a positive one.

When teams have one Rotten Apple, it knocks down the team performance by 30-40%. When you work with jerks you start acting like them (contagion). They also suck time and energy.

Many people can be coached to be good. If you believe they can. But sometimes you’ve got to get rid of them.

One boss when he interviews people tells them: “If you start working here and I find out you’re a jerk I am going fire you.”

What’s your definition of a jerk? Someone who consistently puts their needs a head of their peers, the customer, or the company.

6. Human shields.

Good bosses protect their people. They let their workers work. He or she has got my back.

Managers are people who see visitors so others can get their work done.

Meeting behavior. One thing “powerful people” will do is arrive to meetings late. It shows I am so important the meeting can’t start without me. Then you hold people a little bit long because that shows I’m more important than anything else in your life.

But if you want to protect people, you might want to end meetings on time or early.

A Serious Take on Internet Game Play – Mark Pincus of Zynga

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Love this quote from this interview with Mark Pincus of Zynga.

Part of being a CEO is can you make something happen when you’re not in the room.

The biggest test of whether you are a good CEO is can you map, and communicate a strategy a vision a mission that will make somebody else to as good or better a job on it as you would if you weren’t in the room.

Beware the entrepreneur who isn’t in it for the money

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Reading Neal Gamler’s excellent biography of Walt Disney and am struck by two things:

1. How perpetually broke he was, and
2. How he was never in it for the money.

Walt was perpetually broke. He put every nickel and dime he could spare into every animation he made of Mickey Mouse.

When pressured to lower quality (because quality is expensive), he refused. He and his brother Roy would instead hit the streets and scrounge up just enough to make the payroll and continue on from there.

Listen to how those close to him, describe Walt Disney’s love and passion for animation, after finding out yet again, that the company was on the verge of bankrupcy, even after securing a lucrative distribution contract from United Artists.

In Walt’s eyes, his studio was not to be subject to the pressures of the world; it was his refuge from them–a sacred place. And his animations could not be compromised;they had to be better than anyone else’s or he would not survive in the business; nor would he want to survive.

Excellence was not only Walt’s business strategy, it was the reason he ran the studio and the force that kept his personal world intact.

“If you want to know the real secret of Walt’s success”, longtime animator Ward Kimball would say, “it’s that he never tried to make money. He was always trying to make something that he could have fun with or be proud of.”

To me this is the most dangerous form of entrepreneur (danger in a good way). The kind that isn’t in it for the money.

These artists to it because they have to.
They don’t have a choice.

And woe to the men or companies that stand in his way.

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